Chemicals and Environment

In Part One, we examined the findings of the 2015 meeting of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), during which a panel of 17 cancer experts considered evidence that would determine what class of carcinogens that glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide RoundUp) belonged in.

What was especially strange was that the panel chair was Aaron Blair, an epidemiologist for the National Cancer Institute, was the head of a group which had conducted years of extensive research that gave glyphosate a good safety report card (not expected to be carcinogenic in humans). Yet, the panel never heard anything about Blair's work. He never said a word, allegedly...

The word pesticide is misunderstood, nearly to the same extent as the word chemical. People have been led to believe, largely by the organic food industry and environmental activists, that pesticides are unnatural, dangerous, and do not belong in the food supply. But this defies a basic understanding of biology.

A pesticide is any chemical, natural or human-made, that is designed to kill another organism.

Using that broad definition, there are probably hundreds of thousands of pesticides in the natural environment. As it turns out, biological warfare was invented and perfected by Mother Nature.

For example, some bacteria and fungi produce antibiotics to kill other microbes. We don’t call these antibiotics “pesticides,” but that’s exactly what they...

Glyphosate, the active herbicide in Roundup, is pretty much always in the news, but it is even more so lately:

  • It causes cancer. (A lawsuit against Monsanto)
  • The EU says it doesn't cause cancer. 
  • It was added to California's Proposition list as a carcinogen. Except it isn't.
  • The...

With summer right around the corner, it is time to dig out the bathing suits and flip flops. More importantly, it is time to buy new sunscreen and start using it - daily. Sun exposure is a major contributor to the number of cases of skin cancer - the most common cancer in the United States. 

If you had any hesitation about using sunscreen, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) released a statement last month, just to make sure that the message was clear. They state, 

“The American Academy of Dermatology wants to emphasize that sunscreen remains a safe, effective form of sun protection. As one component of a daily sun-protection strategy, sunscreen is an important tool in the fight against skin cancer,...

People correctly want the food they are putting into their bodies to be good for them and the environment. To satisfy that desire, entire careers have been built extolling the saintly virtues of the "farm-to-table" life that supposedly was simpler and healthier than the conventional, mass-produced agriculture we have today. That's why so many people are willing to pay top dollar for organic food.

Unfortunately, the most common beliefs about organic food are not supported by scientific evidence. The public believes that organic farms don't use pesticides, but they do. People think organic food is healthier,...

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) uses an authoritative sounding name to peddle scientific half-truths and outright fabrications. Along with Greenpeace and PETA, it is beloved by activists but detested by scientists.

Several years ago, George Mason University surveyed 937 members of the Society of Toxicology, an association of professional toxicologists. Nearly 4 out of 5 (79%) of those responding said that EWG -- as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) -- overstate the health risks of chemicals.

Despite this vote of no confidence in EWG by the scientific...

Recently, a teenager died from ingesting too much caffeine in too short a time period. At first, this may sound shocking.

But, caffeine is known to be toxic in very high quantities. An old, fascinating, science experiment tested, in a very unique way, just how toxic certain chemicals are - including caffeine. The results show the effect of caffeine (and other drugs) on our brains by using an uncommon scientific assay -- spider web spinning.

This idea was first proposed by Peter Witt and Charles Reed, in an article published in Science in 1965 called "Spider-web building". In it, they state that because orb-weaving spiders spin webs of varying...

Last week, a colleague sent me an article in the Daily News titled “Increased cancer rate in US linked to bad environment” and asked my opinion of it.

The opening sentence read, “Improving the worst environments in the US could prevent 39 in every 100,000 cancer deaths.” The Daily News item refers to an article published in the journal Cancer, which is published by the American Cancer Society, and to an accompanying editorial.

The article examined the correlation between “environmental quality” and cancer incidence rates in 2,687 U.S. counties. Environmental quality...

If someone is going to commit mass murder of innocent civilians, it's not too much of a stretch to assume that he's going to lie about it. Which is exactly what Bashar al-Assad did when he denied that Syria used chemical weapons in the April 4th attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria.

There was never much question that the chemical agent used was Sarin gas (1), but since Sarin is Sarin, isn't it at least plausible that someone else used the neurotoxin? Is it fair to pin it on Assad?

Actually, it is. This is because Sarin is Sarin, but without a second chemical called a stabilizer, the molecule is too unstable to keep around; the byproduct of Sarin is hydrofluoric acid, which catalyzes its decomposition. In order to neutralize the...

In the 1967 blockbuster movie The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman's character Benjamin returns to his parents' house after college graduation and attends a party there that seems to be populated by mostly his parents' friends. One of them pulls Ben aside to impart a bit of wisdom for business success — in one word; he tells the recent graduate — plastics.

Although Benjamin didn't pay much attention to this revelation, apparently most of us did, because various kinds of plastic are everywhere in modern society — and one that is most obvious is the polyethylene (PE) bags we get at grocery stores. According to the EPA, these ubiquitous items are among the top ten sources of aquatic pollution, and one...